Novato's new top cop is a lifer. More than 27 years after joining the , longtime police Captain Jim Berg was sworn in Wednesday as Novato's interim police chief, replacing the departing Joseph Kreins.
"Jim is about the pursuit of excellence," said Kreins, who retired and then took a temporary job as chief in Vallejo as it searches for a full-time chief.
"He's a good people person, a great tactician and his work ethic is unbelievable," Kreins said. "He's in early in the morning, late at night, weekends, holidays — whatever job needs to get done, he gets it done. He has always pushed himself and pushed the rest of the organization to be the best."
Berg , who received his collar stars from City Manager Michael Frank during a staff ceremony, has worked nine years as a captain and served as the operations division commander. He was hired on May 5, 1985 and worked in the patrol and traffic sections until he was promoted to corporal in 1990. Two years later he began serving as acting sergeant and was promoted to the rank in 1995, continuing to work on patrol until 1999.
Berg was rotated into a spot as personnel and training sergeant and did that until he was promoted to lieutenant in 2001, returning to patrol and working as a watch commander. He was bumped up to captain in 2003.
This is not the first time Berg has served as interim chief. When Brian Brady retired in 2003, Berg served in the role along with Scott Sibbald; Sibbald was the interim boss just before Kreins was hired.
Berg, 49, is a graduate of St. Vincent de Paul High School in Petaluma, Santa Rosa Junior College and Sonoma State University. He spent two years working as a police technician for the Santa Rosa Police Department after getting his degree in criminal justice and coming to Novato.
His family line is packed with service to the armed forces and policing. Berg's grandfather was a cop in Nashville. His father was in the U.S. Army Special Forces during Vietnam. One brother is a lieutenant colonel in the Special Forces now. Another brother is a Santa Rosa police officer. His wife Shelley is a court reporter in Sonoma County. His son Garrett, 22, is in the Marine Corps reserves. His son, Nick, 26, is an officer with Novato PD.
"Military service and policing is sort of DNA woven into my fabric," he said.
Berg has extensive additional training in policing and leadership, including certificates from the FBI National Academy, the West Point Leadership Program, the Post Supervisory Leadership Institute, the Senior Management Institute for Police and Leadership Novato.
The new chief said he does not expect to make big changes in the interim. He commended Kreins for creating an atmosphere of strong community involvement and getting the up and running in recent weeks. He said he wants to continue working closely with other city departments and continue finding ways to implement new technology.
"My advice to our officers is when you encounter an individual out there, treat them how you would your own family member to be treated," he said. "That's in the best interest of the community."
Kreins said Berg's experience within the department makes the transition seamless because "he was worked his way through the steps and seen what it's like at ever level of this organization. This is a natural progression. Albeit this is an interim position, I'm hopeful that ultimately he will be accepted into the permanent position.
Berg has worked so closely with Kreins that the former chief had to joke about it.
"It's one of those situations where if you pull aside the curtain and look at the Wizard, he's the guy running the show," he said.
Berg has been married 29 years to Shelly, and they live in Sonoma County.
The city's plans for the permanent police chief position have not been released. Frank said it is his decision to make and he doesn't have a timeline or deadline on it.